Monday, September 3, 2012

Mayberry Mondays #56: “The New Housekeeper” (10/05/70, prod. no. 0305)


By the time comic actress Alice Ghostley joined the cast of Mayberry R.F.D. in today’s episode as Aunt Bee replacement Cousin Alice, she was already a familiar face and TV veteran, having guest-starred on such chestnuts as Car 54, Where are You? (in the hilarious episode “Love Finds Muldoon”), Naked City, The Farmer’s Daughter, Get Smart, Hogan’s Heroes and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, to name just a few.  She was a semi-regular on Jackie Gleason’s American Scene Magazine variety program (in the “Arthur and Agnes” sketches), and co-starred with William Daniels (as his mom) on the Get Smart-like superhero spoof, Captain Nice.  But she was probably best known on Bewitched as the shy wallflower witch Esmeralda, a show she joined in the sitcom’s sixth season (her character was kind of created to fill the void left by Marion Lorne’s Aunt Clara when Lorne passed away in 1968) and continued to make appearances on while also appearing as a cast member on R.F.D.  (I should probably state for the record that if you’re hoping Ghostley’s Cousin Alice fades away at inappropriate times like her Bewitched character…it doesn’t happen.  I’ve watched all the episodes, and was mildly disappointed she did not.)

So Ghostly had a considerable amount of cachet in the industry by the time of her debut in “The New Housekeeper.”  So much so that she rates this:


Yeah, Buddy Ray!  We’re talking Andy Griffith guest star credentials here. Look—it’s no surprise that Ken Berry, in the role of poor-but-honest-dirt-farmer-turned-town-council-head Sam Jones, gets top billing on this program…and when Beatrice “Aunt Bee” Taylor (Francis Bavier) was still tooling around Mayberry, it was only right that she be featured in the opening credits as well (though there were occasions when she was credited for shows in which she did not appear).  George Lindsey, who played village idiot Goober Pyle, was also prominently listed in the show’s opening (even for episodes where he was MIA, too)—which, again, considering the time he put in on The Andy Griffith Show, seems only right.

So here’s the deal—Ghostley was able to leap frog over Arlene Golonka (bakery doyenne Millie Swanson), Paul Hartman (fix-it savant Emmett Clark, Jack Dodson (pedantic county clerk Howard Sprague) and Buddy Foster (Mike the Idiot Boy).  I’m curious as to whether that ever caused any friction on the set.

But I’ve little time for idle show biz gossip—there’s big doin’s in Mayberry as a construction crew works tirelessly to install a flag pole in the town square.  Supervising the project are Howard and Goober—the latter making himself a regular nuisance to the foreman on this project…


…hey!  It’s our old pal Ted Gehring, in his second of two R.F.D. appearances (the first one being “Millie, the Secretary”).  Good to have the character veteran back for a brief bit in which his patience is severely tried by you-know-who.

FOREMAN (shouting): All right, Charlie…let it down easy…
GOOBER (also shouting): All right, Charlie…let ‘er down easy…easy does it…

I realize, of course, that “Charlie” is one of the most common names.  But there’s a construction guy named Charlie in both “The New Well” and “The Mayberry Road.”  It’s got to be the same person.

HOWARD: I guess you fellas see a lot of these flagpoles go in, huh?
FOREMAN: Mmm… (Shouting again) All right, Charlie…just a little bit to your left…
GOOBER (following suit): Little bit to your left, Charlie!
HOWARD: This was forty-two feet tall…and it’s two feet taller than the one at the library in Siler Cityfive feet taller than the one at City Hall in Mt. Pilot

“Be sure to be with us next week for another edition of Boring Sh*t No One Cares About!”

FOREMAN: Okay, Charlie—hold it right there!
GOOBER: Hold it right there, Charlie…looks good…
FOREMAN: All right…here she goes…
GOOBER: Here she goes…

I was so hoping Gehring’s foreman would whip right around and nail Goober with that beautiful line of Jack Warden’s from Used Cars: “What are you, a f**king parrot?”

FOREMAN (fed up with Goober the mynah bird): Look, Mac…would you mind lettin’ me do it myself?  I mean…it kinda gives me a feelin’ of power, you know?
GOOBER (sulky): I’m sorry…I was just tryin’ to help… (Muttering to Howard) Must’ve gotten up on the wrong side of the bed…
HOWARD: Well, he’s just trying to do his job, Goober… (To the foreman) Say, you know—we really appreciate you fellas getting this in for us…we’ve got our big dedication ceremony scheduled for Saturday…
FOREMAN (glancing at his watch): Well, it looks like it’s about time for lunch…
GOOBER: Me and Howard are in the Honor Guard at the flag-raisin’…
(The foreman smiles weakly)
HOWARD: Big doin’s!  Free eats and everything!  You’re welcome to come and bring the family!
FOREMAN: Yeah, well, I’ll…I’ll sure mention it to ‘em…

He said, knocking down townsfolk in his sprint back to the truck.  “Boy, it was lucky I was here to help him get this flagpole in,” Goober says to Howard as if he actually had some self-worth.  He then points off-screen as if he’s noticed something…and he has; for it’s our pretend farmer hero himself, Sam Jones, walking up through the square and being greeted by his idiot progeny, Mike.

SAM (to Howard and Goober): Hey, guys…how’s it goin’?
HOWARD: Ah, it looks great
SAM: Yeah…
HOWARD: Gonna be a big day…
SAM: Oh, yeah…
GOOBER: Yeah, it’s a shame Aunt Bee couldn’t be here to see this…
SAM: Yeah…I got a letter from her, and it looks like she’s going to be staying with her sister for quite a while…

And that, Aunt Bee devotees, is that.

HOWARD: Hmm…too bad, we’re sure gonna miss her…
SAM: Yeah…
MIKE: Did Pa tell you who’s gonna stay with us?  Pa’s Cousin Alice!  She’s an Army sergeant!
HOWARD: Yeah, your Dad told us all about her…say, did she get her discharge papers all right…?
SAM: Yeah, yeah…she’s all clear now…you know, she was originally planning to stay in for the full thirty years, but…they’ve got a pretty good pension after twenty, so…she decided to get out…
GOOBER: I never could figger out why the Army wants them WACs…

I know someone I’d like to introduce to some WACs…preferably from a strong stick.  Sam announces that he and Mike have to stop by and pick up Millie before meeting Cousin Alice at the bus stop, so he’s a-moseyin’.  “Tell your cousin I got a saber from the Crimean War if she wants to see it,” Goober informs him.  Howard does the familiar eye-rolling bit:


At the depot, Sam is worried about whether or not he’ll recognize Alice…and Millie suggests it might be the woman in uniform, demonstrating she’s the brains of the outfit.  Sam and Alice embrace warmly and begin the family small talk.

ALICE: You must have grown three feet!
SAM: Well, I hope so! (Laughing) You know, I knew you right away—you haven’t changed a bit!
ALICE: Aw, Sam…stop that!
SAM: Here…I want you to meet my son, Mike…
ALICE: Hi, Mike!
MIKE: Hi…do you have any medals?

Gotta love the social skills on that kid.  “I like cheese!”

ALICE: Well, only for good conduct…darn it…
SAM (indicating Millie) Oh, and I’d like you to meet a very dear friend of mine…
ALICE: Don’t tell me…Jeannie Olsen…I remember you were always sweet on her…
SAM: No…no…no…
ALICE: Nancy Frazier?

Criminently…how many women have seen the inside of Sam’s barn since his wife passed on?

MILLIE: Millie Swanson…I come a little later on the list…

Right after Melanie Haber…Audrey Farber…Susan Underhill…Cousin Alice is a little red-faced at not having bought a program to distinguish Millie from all of Sam’s former sexual conquests, but Sam helps her save face by asking Mike to take Alice’s two carryon cases while he goes after her duffel bag.

MIKE (holding up one of the cases): What is this?
ALICE: That’s a trumpet!  I was in the band… (To Millie) I double on the flute, too…
MILLIE: Oh!
MIKE: Did you ever ride a tank or anything?

“I like cheese!”

ALICE: As a matter of fact, I did… (To Millie) It was quite a battle, too…don’t ever date a man in the tank corps…you can’t get out of those things!

Millie laughs politely, because that’s pretty much all you can do when someone you’ve only known for a couple of minutes starts to share way too much information.  Having retrieved Alice’s luggage, Sam escorts Alice to where he parked the car…and in a scene change, they’re crossing the threshold of Casa del Jones.

SAM (at the front door): Oh, Mike…you want to run those things up to Alice’s room, please?
MIKE: Okay, Pa… (He exits upstairs)
ALICE: Oh Sam, it’s wonderful…just wonderful
SAM (setting down her suitcases): Well…you go ahead and make yourself right at home…
ALICE: Oh, I will…you know, it’s just like I remembered it…

“Well, except for the part about nothing growing in the fields…”

SAM: Uh…you’re…not gonna miss the Army too much, are ya?
ALICE: Oh…oh no, Sam…no, the Army was good to me…it…it was really a marvelous twenty years but…well, it’s time for me to settle down while I’m still young…
SAM: Well, it’s sure great for us…you taking over for Aunt Bee…
ALICE: Well, it’s great for me—you know, I always did like Mayberry…I just can’t wait to meet everybody in town…
SAM: Well, good!  Good…
ALICE: You know…Sam…I wonder…if I’ll have any trouble adjusting to civilian life…
SAM: Oh…no…don’t worry about that…another couple of days and you’re gonna feel right at home…

Gathering up the rest of her things, Sam asks Alice what he should do with her trumpet and she tells him to put it anywhere…but then asks him if they have a band in Mayberry.  When he responds that they don’t at the present time, Alice is disappointed.  “I’d hate to lose my lip,” she observes.

SAM: Well, you …practice here!
ALICE: Well…I might just run a scale every now and then…
SAM: Good…good… (He takes her suitcases and starts toward the stairs)
ALICE: Oh, Sam—what about supper?
SAM: Oh, I thought we’d just…uh, grab a bite out tonight…and then maybe tomorrow you can go into town and do some marketing and…we’ll get on a schedule…
ALICE: Wonderful… (Sighing) You know…I think I’m going to like this outfit…

You’ll get to sleep in, for one thing…because nothing remotely resembling farm work ever goes on.  There is then a scene shift to Goober’s Gas—“Site of the Mayberry Dinosaur”—and we find the proprietor practicing his drill for the Honor Guard with a broom when Alice pulls up in Sam’s car.

GOOBER (noticing Alice): Oh, hey!
ALICE: Hi!
GOOBER: Hey…Sam’s car!  Aw…I bet you’re Sam’s cousin
ALICE: Yes…I’m Alice Cooper…

“No more Mister Nice Guy/No more Mister Clean…”

GOOBER (extending his hand for a shake): Uh…Goober Pyle…I own the station here…we probably met when we was kids…
ALICE: Oh, I’m sure we did…

“I remember you!  You were the one who used to eat all the paste!”

ALICE (noticing the broom): Say—what are you doing?  Playing soldier or something?
GOOBER (sheepishly): Oh…I’m in the Honor Guard at the flagpole dedication…hey—you’ll appreciate this bein’ an Army man and all that…

Goober goes through his drill paces, counting off “Two-three-four”…

ALICE: Five!
GOOBER: What?
ALICE: Well… (She gets out of the car) When you snap the rifle back to your side like that, you see…you say “Five!”  I was in a drill team for two years…
GOOBER: Well, actually…I said “five” to myself when I snapped it back…
ALICE: Oh…

Sam apparently hasn’t told Alice that “four” is the highest Goober can count.

GOOBER: It’s gonna be a big day…highlight of the ceremonies is when they shoot off the cannon and me and Howard come marchin’ out… (He grins stupidly)  He’s the county clerk…he’s got a nasal condition
ALICE: I wonder if there’s anything I can do…
GOOBER: Naw…he’s got every nose spray in the world

Every episode…one laugh-out-loud moment.

GOOBER: Oh, you mean with the flag-raisin’…I don’t think so…things are purty much in the works now…fill ‘er up?
ALICE: Yes, please…and would you check the motor?  It doesn’t seem to be running very smoothly…

Goober hands his broom to Alice and walks over to the car, popping the hood.

GOOBER: It could be your spark plugs…that’s them white things there…it might be somethin’ in the carburetor…that’s that thing right there…
ALICE: No…no, it flattens out at around forty…listen… (She revs the engine for Goober) I think it’s in the distributor…the condenser’s probably shot… (Noticing that Goober is staring at her) Well, I was in the motor pool for several years…

Alice’s diagnosis of her engine trouble kind of ticks off Goober, who complains that he’s been a tune-up specialist half his life “and I was gonna mention that condenser stuff next!”  He then grabs the broom from Alice, muttering “Gimme my rifle…”


Her attempts to get in Goober’s good graces torpedoed (though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing), Grace continues on her errands, stopping by Mayberry’s friendly grocer to do a little marketing.  Two women have exited from the store, one of whom needs no introduction—she’s resident blue-blooded snob Clara Edwards (Hope Summers), in what will be her last appearance on Mayberry R.F.D.  I don’t know the reason why, because I thought her character made a great antagonist…and if it had anything to do with Aunt Bee’s departure that’s just silly because the only R.F.D. episode they appear in together is “The Mayberry Road.”

The woman beside her answers to “Grace,” and is played by character great Helen Page Camp—Camp has been on the show before, notably as the prickly Mrs. Corcoran in the classic “Driver Education.”  Since her character in this episode is also lacking in warmth, I don’t think it would be any stretch to assume that it’s the same woman…particularly since Mrs. C wasn’t introduced by her first name. 


According to the always reliable IMDb, Camp was also in a third R.F.D. episode, “Emmett’s Retirement.”  She’s not officially credited in the episode, and I think there’s a distinct possibility that she might have appeared in a scene that got snipped for syndication since I’m reasonably sure I would have spotted her upon viewing the show—she’s identified at IMDb as “Card player,” but I don’t remember a card-playing scene in that installment, which just furthers my cutting room floor suspicions.  (Pure speculation on my part, but perhaps Emmett’s decision to hang it up early was disturbing a card game hosted by his wife Martha [Mary Lansing]—both of whom do not appear this week, by the way.)

ALICE (greeting both women): Good morning…
CLARA: Oh…good morning
ALICE: I’m Alice Cooper…

“School’s…out…for…summer/School’s…out…for…ever…”

ALICE: …Sam Jones’ cousin…
CLARA: Oh, yes…well, welcome to Mayberry…I’m Clara Edwards…

“…and I’m not a witch…really, I’m not…”

CLARA: …and this is Grace Johnson…

And there goes my Corcoran theory, scattered to the four winds.

GRACE: Nice to meet you…
ALICE: Thank you!  My…they seem to have lovely vegetables here…
CLARA: Oh, yes…yes…
ALICE: You know…it’s been so long since I’ve marketed…I suppose I should squeeze something before I buy it…

I’ll warn you away from the toilet tissue, though…that Whipple guy inside doesn’t like it.

GRACE (chuckling): You’ve been in the Army, haven’t you?
ALICE: Yes…twenty years…
GRACE: My…what courage
CLARA: Well…we hope to see you soon…
ALICE: Oh, I’d love to get together…uh…would you girls like to come over tomorrow afternoon for tea?
GRACE: Oh, I’m sorry…tomorrow we’re bridging
CLARA: It’s our regular bridge day

Bridge Day is a yearly spectacle held in Fayetteville, WV where they allow people to BASE jump (parachute) or rappel off the New River Gorge Bridge, the world’s longest steel single-span arch bridge.  (You can probably tell where this joke was headed.)

CLARA: …maybe you’d like to join us?
ALICE (taking a deep breath): Well…I’m afraid I don’t play bridge…
GRACE: Oh…
ALICE: But if you girls like cards, how about switching it to poker?
GRACE: Poker?
ALICE: Oh, something simple…jacks are better…or spit in the ocean…?
GRACE: Well, I really don’t…
ALICE: We could play for five and ten…that way nobody gets clobbered!
CLARA: Possibly…some other time… (To Grace) Grace, we really must run now…

The politest goodbyes these two biddies can muster are offered up to Alice, but it’s pretty obvious her many years in the armed services are rapidly making her a pariah in Mayberry.  Que lastima!  Well, the scene then shifts to the Jones family kitchen, formerly the bailiwick of the dearly departed Aunt Bee.  Sam comes in with a pair of trousers that have been transformed into cardboard because Alice went a little heavy on the starch—you can take the girl out of the Army, but…well, you know.  I kind of chuckled at this sight gag because it reminds me of a similar one in a Three Stooges comedy, Movie Maniacs (1935).


SAM: Hey, how’d things go in town today?
ALICE: Oh, fine…fine…yes…fine…well…well, it’s a little difficult adjusting…but I’m sure everything’s going to be perfect…
SAM: Of course…of course…
ALICE: Well…I’m just so anxious to meet everybody and become a part of it all…
SAM: Yeah… (After a pause) Well, look—there’s a…big meeting tomorrow at the council office on that flagpole dedication?  Be a lot of people there…why don’t you stop by?
ALICE: Oh, Sam—that would be fun!
SAM: Yeah!  Give you a chance to meet everybody…

And regret it till the end of your days afterward.  Alice goes back to her kitchening, and through the back door comes Idiot Boy, who expresses an interest in what Alice has cooking on the stove.

MIKE: Fixing supper?
ALICE: Yes…say—what have you been having for supper lately?
MIKE: I’m not sure…Pa’s been doing the cooking…
ALICE: Oh…
MIKE: It’s been kinda rough since Aunt Bee left… (Alice nods) Uh…what’s that?
ALICE: That? Oh…that is good…it’s really good…it’s been a favorite of mine for years…creamed chipped beef on toast…

The Army regulars, of course, refer to it by its charming nom de cuisine, “Shit on a shingle.”

MIKE: Creamed chipped beef on toast?
ALICE: Yes…you see, you take some milk…and you add a little flour for thickening…and then you add some salt…and some dried beef…then you cook it over a low flame and pour it over a good ol’ piece of white toast and…well…well, it’s really swell…
MIKE: Any dessert?
ALICE: Rice and raisins…

Tune in next week for another episode of Throwdown with Alice Cooper—only on The Food Network!

MIKE: Rice and raisins?
ALICE: Yes, and it’s delicious…it really is…it’s an old Army favorite…
MIKE: Uh…no chocolate marshmallow or butterscotch cake?

What do you think this is, kid—Morelli’s?  You know…I almost wish they had made Alice’s character a little saltier, that her response would be something like: “Chocolate marshmallow cake?  Listen, you little (expletive deleted)…I did not watch my buddies die face down in the muck so that you could stuff your (obscene gerund) face with (another obscene gerund) chocolate marshmallow cake!”

Alice is certainly no fool—she can see that the menu doesn’t measure up to the specifications of the sophisticated palate of Michael Jones, Esquire…so she tells the little mook she’ll try but he responds that she should probably stick to “rice and raisins.”  So…now it’s time for that portion of the program where they have a big committee meeting in the council office—and in attendance are Sam and Alice, along with Clara, Grace, Millie, Howard and Mayberry’s wily and parsimonious drugstore proprietor Elmo, played by Vince Barnett.  Oh, and two other individuals who will remain nameless and faceless because…let’s be honest…you’ll probably never see these people ever on the show again.


SAM: …well, I guess that takes care of everything as far as the ceremony itself is concerned…
CLARA: It should be glorious!
SAM: Yeah…
ELMO: What about the refreshments?
CLARA: Uh…Grace and I have planned two hundred finger sandwiches…assorted

“Both little boy and little girl…”

GRACE: And a fruit punch…something simple but stimulating…
ALICE: If there’s anything at all that I can do…

“My creamed chipped beef on toast is the talk of five continents…”

CLARA: Well…thank you, Alice…but there’s no problem…
ELMO: Yeah…
SAM: Oh, Elmo—how about the seating arrangements?  The chairs and everything…
ELMO: Under control, Sam…
MILLIE: I bought the decorations for the bandstand…it should be lovely
ALICE: If there’s anything I can do, well, just tell me…I’d be only too happy to help…

“And my rice and raisins?  C’est magnifique!”

ELMO: I don’t know where…everything seems to be in good shape…
SAM: Oh…uh…Howard?  How’s the Honor Guard coming?
HOWARD: Oh…fine, fine…Tommy Winterhalter’s going to be the bugler…he’ll be in his scout uniform, and then Goober and I are going to be in revolutionary war outfits

“…because our lederhosen won’t be back from the cleaners in time.”

CLARA: Now…about the theme cake…uh, Mrs. Carter is going to bake that, isn’t she?
MILLIE: Mrs. Carter?  She went out of town…
GRACE: Good heavens!  We were counting on her!
CLARA: Of course!  And I don’t know where we’ll find time to bake a cake…

The first time I watched this episode, I shouted out: “Did everybody collectively forget that Millie works in a bakery?”  Well, scribes Dick Bensfield and Perry Grant apparently did, because this cake crisis has essentially been created to guilt Alice into taking on the assignment even though she hasn’t progressed much beyond rice and raisins.  (The camera even goes in for a close-up, as she opens her mouth to speak and then struggles as to whether she should say something.)  There’s quite a bit of banter back and forth about this (eventually Sam asks “Why don’t you buy one?” which is kind of in keeping with the Millie-bakery concept, but Clara vetoes this with “only as a last resort”) and then Alice finds the nerve to say:

ALICE: I’ll do it!
GRACE: AliceCould you?
ALICE: Oh…no problem…

“You people like rice and raisin cake, right?”

CLARA: Why, that’s very sweet, Alice…but you do understand that it’s the theme cake…and that means that it has to be very dramatic
ALICE: Dramatic?
CLARA: Yes…it probably should be a three-tiered cake…possibly with red, white and blue icing…and a decoration on top consistent with the flag-raising…possibly a flag…or an eagle…or the Statue of Liberty!  Something like that!  Do you think you can handle that, Alice?

I’m surprised Alice’s response wasn’t “Piece of cake!”  Oh, and I love the face Sam makes as Clara describes what shape the theme cake should take.  But no, she assures Clara that she has the matter in hand and although you would think Sam would be monitoring this to the point where he would interject with “Maybe we should just order a Number 35 from Boysinger’s” he dismisses the meeting, telling all assembled that if everyone does their jobs it will be a splendid time for all.

Back from shilling for General Foods, we find Alice in the Jones kitchen, being counseled by Sam’s cretinous son who for some odd reason wields a broom throughout this exercise, as if he were some doofus who works at a gas station practicing for the Honor…um…let’s move on, shall we?

MIKE: I thought you said you didn’t know how to bake?
ALICE: Oh, now…I don’t think I said that, Mike…I just haven’t done it for quite some time…
MIKE: Oh…
ALICE: No, I think a person can do anything he sets his mind to…well, now….I think the first tier’s done…

Alice removes the “first tier” from the oven, and sets it down on the kitchen table.  Laughing nervously, she has a little difficulty separating the cake from the pan.  “Didn’t you butter the pan?” Mike asks.


Alice begins to chuckle in a sort of “Why-weren’t-you-here-when-I-started-this?” fashion, and her attempts to remove the cake result in a small portion breaking off, causing Mike to exclaim “Oh boy!” and roll his eyes.  But before Alice can go at him with a kitchen knife, he bolts out the back way carrying his broom.  (They must have had a subplot in this episode where the kid was trying to emulate Goober’s Honor Guard antics, and it got snipped for syndication.)


So the above screen capture shows Alice’s progress with the theme cake.  Please do not laugh and point, as it will embarrass her.  Actually, since the top tier is a little lopsided, she resorts to a little ingenuity…


…she breaks out the cookie jar and slides a few cookies underneath.  I did not laugh at this, because that would actually be something I would do if necessary.  A few seconds of screen time later and…


…viola!  The cake, she is done!  Mike comes in and surveys Alice’s handiwork.  “Well—how does it look?” she asks a question she knows the answer to.

“I…guess it’ll taste good,” he responds unconvincingly, backing away from the dessert as if it were radioactive.


Poor Alice.  In a funk because she’s flunked Home Ec, it’s up to the Sage of Mayberry to sit her straight.

SAM: Aw…come on, Alice…we have to go down there and help get things ready
ALICE: I am not going, Sam…
SAM: Look…would you just…forget about that cake—it’s not that serious!  So they won’t have a theme cake…
ALICE: I never should have offered to bake it in the first place!
SAM: Oh…
ALICE: It was just…well…I was so anxious to get in the swing of things in Mayberry…
SAM: Look…Alice…I…I think you’re making much too much out of this thing…
ALICE: Oh, no…I would be just too embarrassed to face Grace and Clara…you know, they already think I’m some kind of a card shark
SAM: Oh, nonsense…
ALICE: No…no, Sam—now you go on…
SAM: Well…maybe you’ll change your mind and come down later…

You know, with ineffectual Sam giving advice to everyone in Mayberry—I’m surprised the suicide rate in that town isn’t three times the national average.  As for Alice…well, this would be a good time to disappear providing she had the powers of an Esmeralda.


Just looking at the above screen cap you know this clambake is going to be one of those affairs where you shift uncomfortably in your seat, your clothes clinging to you in the heat and you wishing the damn thing was over already.  Clara, Grace and Millie are futzing around the tables, arranging the refreshments:

MILLIE: Well, where do you want Wilma’s secret roses beet surprise?
GRACE: Just put it back there…nobody ever eats it…
SAM (approaching the women): Uh…hello, ladies…
CLARA: Hello, Sam…where’s Alice?
SAM: Uh…well, that’s what I wanted to explain to you, Clara…

Listen to how smoothly Sam alibis for the missing cake.  Truly inspired.

CLARA: You don’t mean that she didn’t make the cake?
SAM: Oh, no…well…yes…she made the cake, all right…yeah…she baked the cake…three tiers…red, white and blue and everything…but…uh…well, you see, Alice is kind of a perfectionist
GRACE: Go on…
SAM: Well, the…the cake didn’t turn out quite as well as she thought it should, so she…well…she dropped it…and…it was ruined

“And then Mike ate the remains.  Oh, it was a terrible sight to behold.”

CLARA: I would think that if she didn’t know how to bake, she shouldn’t have offered!
GRACE: After all, the theme cake was the focal point of our whole table!
MILLIE: Well…what about using Wilma’s secret…beet surprise?

Millie…darlin’…you work in a bakery!

“Very disappointing…very disappointing,” crows Clara, but they’ll soon have bigger fish to fry.  Goober and Howard rush in, clad in what can only be their underwear, and they have a boy dressed in a scout uniform with them.  Maybe I don’t want to know what this is about…

GOOBER: Where’s the first aid kit?  Where’s the first aid kit?
SAM: What happened?
HOWARD: Willie got hit in the mouth playing baseball…


I’ve run the scene over several times, and it definitely sounds to me as if Howard is calling the kid “Willie” when earlier it was established that his name was “Tommy.”  (Though it could be my forty-nine-year-old ears, too.)  I guess it doesn’t matter, because Sam reverts back to calling him “Tommy”…and I don’t want to say anything before the facts are in, but the injury above that kid’s lip looks as if someone hit him with something other than a baseball.  (I hear his old man drinks.)

SAM: Let me have a look, Tommy…let me see it…well…now…that doesn’t look too bad
GOOBER: Too bad?  It couldn’t be worse—that’s his buglin’ lip!
HOWARD: Yeah!  What if he can’t play the bugle when we run the flag up the pole?
SAM: Oh…
GOOBER (to Howard): Get some ice…get some ice!
(Howard runs over to the punch bowl and grabs a handful of ice)
GRACE: Get your hands out of my punch!
HOWARD: This is an emergency!
GOOBER (to Tommy): What kind of kid are you, out playin’ baseball?
(Howard arrives with the ice, and Sam starts to apply it to the kid’s lip)
HOWARD: Don’t move that lip!
GOOBER: I knew somethin’ was gonna happen…
SAM: Tommy…can you blow out of the side of your mouth?
TOMMY: I don’t think so…
HOWARD: Don’t move that lip!
GOOBER: We might as well cancel everything…highlight of the whole ceremony, and we gotta march out there without a bugle call!
MILLIE: Well, can’t we get somebody else?

Millie, why aren’t you back at the bakery for that theme cake?  Chop chop!  “Oh, yeah…sure…Mr. Wiggins can blow to the colors on his violin,” says Howard sarcastically.  But Sam has a cunning plan—so cunning you can put a tail on it and call it a weasel.  He excuses himself, and says he’ll be right back.

You’re already where you need to be in the narrative—Sam presses Alice into service to be the Boogie Woogie Bugle Gal of Company B.  I did want to direct your attention to this, first:


Elmo was put in charge of firing the cannon.  (I was expecting a Fort Courage guard turret to come crashing down afterward.)  Then Alice, Goober and Howard come marching into view, to the amazement of Clara, Millie, Grace and the rest.  Alice blows the bugle call as both Sam and Mike look proudly on, their hands mysteriously stuck to their chests.  When she’s finished, everyone comes rushing over to her with hugs and the heartiest of congratulations—the Great Mayberry Flag Dedication Cake Debacle just a mist in the memory.  “Anybody can bake a cake,” beams Mike, “but how many ladies can do that?”


Sam gives his cousin a familial hug and says: “Welcome to Mayberry, Alice.”  And the less cynical among us kind of tear up at some honest sentiment.

Most of the coda on this one is taken up by a very nice harmony version of A Little Street (Where Old Friends Meet), sung by Berry (nice to know he can strum something other than Carolina Moon) and Ghostley—Alice demonstrating she’s no slouch when it comes to carrying a tune.  (Good luck finding it on YouTube—the guy who posted those R.F.D. episodes earlier had his account terminated “due to multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement from claimant.”)  When they’re finished, Alice and Sam heft a couple of quarts of lemonade brought to them by Mike the Idiot Boy, with Sam asking his cousin “And you really feel at home now?”


“Like I’ve lived here all my life,” she answers cheerfully.  I laughed at this, because this is pretty much the modus operandi with Mayberry—it’s possible to be a “veteran” even after joining R.F.D. a season or two earlier.

If you look at the listing of R.F.D. episodes under Alice Ghostley’s name at the IMDb…you’ll find her credited with two appearances.  Now—don’t start clutching your pearls as you make your way to the fainting couch simply because the Internet’s movie and TV data source is once again horribly, horribly wrong.  Wikipedia credits Ghostley with fourteen shows, but the only way to really solve this thing is by using the authoritative measuring power of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s latest invention, the Alice-o-Meter.  (Yes, this is the Bee-o-Meter…it just has a new name.  You try selling this machine on eBay.)  So with this episode, we tally one Alice appearance on the series.  Will we chalk up another one next week?  There’s only one way to find out—join us for “All for Charity,” a let’s-put-on-a-show opus featuring the terpsichorean skills of Paul Hartman, an appearance from the lovable “Fishface,” and a cameo from a future Academy Award-winning actress.  Be there!  Aloha!

4 comments:

Stacia said...

“I like cheese!”

HA!

Oh, boy, these are gonna be hard to get through, and I'm only reading the recaps, not watching the shows like you are. Alice Ghostly is not one of my favorite people; I'm not keen on the Ghostlys or the Thelma Ritters or the Edna Mae Olivers of the thespian community.

As for "every woman can bake a cake" nonsense, to that I say "PFFFFT."

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Alice Ghostly is not one of my favorite people; I'm not keen on the Ghostlys or the Thelma Ritters or the Edna Mae Olivers of the thespian community.

I mentioned it in the first paragraph, but there's a Car 54, Where are You? episode Ghostley guested on ("Love Finds Muldoon") that I think may be the funniest thing I've ever seen her do. Other than that, I agree with you -- she's kind of an acquired taste; she certainly wasn't Marion Lorne (which might be a little unfair, because so few people could ever hope to be) and the only other thing I vividly remember her from is Designing Women, which I didn't care for at all. I'm not entirely certain what the R.F.D. folks thought she was going to bring to the table nor can I figure out why she agreed to appear on the show (other than the whole paying-the-rent thing) when it already had the stink of death.

But not liking Thelma Ritter...kiddo, we have to talk.

Stacia said...

I know, I know. Everyone disagrees with me on Thelma Ritter. I just have a very low tolerance for people who play to the same character constantly, or who have such a limited performance range.

I like her well enough in Pickup on South Street, but The Mating Season just pushed me over the edge. It was probably the 11th Ritter film I'd seen, so to be fair, I gave her a heck of a chance before deciding I was no fan.

davewollenberg said...

I wonder if Alice did her own bugle/trumpet playin', or was it dubbed in by somebody else? Maybe somebody knows.